Microsoft’s GitHub confirms it has blocked developers in Iran, Syria and Crimea

July 29, 2019
| Report Focus News

The impact of United States trade restrictions is trickling down to the developer community. GitHub,  the world’s largest host of source code, is preventing users in Iran, Syria, Crimea and potentially other sanctioned nations from accessing portions of the service, chief executive of the Microsoft-owned firm said.

The first one is Russian developer Anatoliy Kashkin who lives in Crimea, one of the countries facing the US sanctions. In a post on his profile, he notes that GitHub no longer allows him to create and access private GitHub repositories, revealing that his website also went down because it was hosted on Microsoft’s service.

“My GitHub account has been restricted due to US sanctions as I live in Crimea. I may not be able to continue maintaining GameHub in future,” he explains in a post on the project status page, revealing that he can’t create private repositories and the existing ones are disabled.

“Nothing can be access in web UI,” he added

While he is currently considering a potential switch to alternative services like GitLab, moving the project isn’t an easy thing to do.

“GitHub has many useful features and it’s safe to assume that many of people interested in GameHub already use GitHub,” he said as per ZDNet. “Discoverability is also a very important factor. I don’t think many people will find GameHub on a self-hosted server somewhere and I don’t think many of them will report issues there either.”

GitHub: “We’re not doing this because we want to”

GitHub, on the other hand, says it’s only complying with the law.

“Due to US trade controls law restrictions, your GitHub account has been restricted. For individual accounts, you may have limited access to free GitHub public repository services for personal communications only,” a notification displayed to impacted devs reads.

Iranian developer Hamed Saeedi has also been banned by GitHub.

“GitHub blocked my account and they think I’m developing nuclear weapons,” he says.

Saeedi explains that his account was banned because he lives in Iran, a country targeted by US sanctions. After reaching out to Nat Friedman, the CEO of GitHub, repeatedly, he finally got an answer.

“It is painful for me to hear how trade restrictions have hurt people. We have gone to great lengths to do no more than what is required by the law, but of course people are still affected. GitHub is subject to US trade law, just like any company that does business in the US,” GitHub’s CEO explained.

For now, there’s not much devs can do, other than hope GitHub can find a way to comply with US sanctions without hurting their projects. The service has reportedly gotten in touch with US regulators to discuss the issues and should provide an update on this soon.